IT HAS been a difficult week for Hull KR in more ways than one.
The news that broke on Wednesday night that their centre Thomas Minns had failed a drugs test is both sad for the player himself, whose career is now clearly in jeopardy, and also the club.
Given their current predicament, with just three wins in Super League since their return to the top flight, they can ill-afford to lose players of any ilk, not least someone who had started to show so much promise on the big stage.
Let’s not forget, it was only last month that Minns scored a derby-day hat-trick against Hull FC, even if it was in defeat, and, when fit, the former Leeds Rhino would be a regular starter in Tim Sheens’s side.
However, now, in all likelihood, the 23-year-old will serve a two-year ban from the sport for using recreational drugs and the Robins – already with one of the lightest squads in Super League – have to prepare for life without him.
Before that they had lost influential captain Shaun Lunt, cruelly ruled out for another two months after injuring his knee in the opening two minutes in last Saturday’s latest defeat, at Warrington Wolves.
One thing is for certain: when the ex-England hooker plays Rovers are a far, far better side.
Still, what could be an even bigger blow is losing out in the race to sign Joe Westerman.
Hull KR have long since been trying to strengthen their playing pool without much luck for one reason or another.
In Westerman, the former Castleford, Warrington and England loose forward, it looked like they might get a player who would genuinely improve them and give them a massive mid-season lift.
So, imagine Rovers’ dismay when it emerged yesterday they had not only lost out on the 28-year-old, but lost out to fierce rivals Hull FC.
Some will wonder why Hull actually want Westerman. He, of course, has served them well before, making his England debut in 2014 after his best season for the Black and Whites since his six-figure switch from Castleford four years previously.
He grew as a player almost to become the fulcrum of Lee Radford’s pack yet the head coach was still happy enough to sanction his £150,000 switch to Warrington Wolves at the end of 2015.
Radford’s decision did not backfire; Hull went on finally to win at Wembley the following season and backed that up again last term.
Furthermore, with Gareth Ellis now retired, Dean Hadley has slotted in well at No 13 this term while Jordan Abdull is waiting in the wings, too, so there does not seem any great need for Westerman’s return.
Perhaps that embarrassment of riches may make Westerman’s decision to choose FC over Rovers even more irritating for the club on the east side of the river.
Granted, some may see it as a risk. For instance, why have Toronto Wolfpack – just months after paying Warrington Wolves £130,000 for Westerman’s services – decided to release him from his three-year deal so hurriedly?
Regardless, Rovers will have felt they could have got the best out of his obvious potential, but it is not to be.
All they can do now is make sure their week doesn’t get any worse, but tomorrow’s Challenge Cup game at League 1 Oldham is all of a sudden more pressurised than ever. It is only two years ago since the part-timers knocked Rovers out of the competition.
If that happened again, it really would be a catastrophic few days.